The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Thoughts on the November Elections

Chrissie McGlinchey • Parliamentary Brief, December, 2003

The elections to the Stormont Assembly on the 26th of November proved to be fruitful in at least one way. They clearly exhibited that, despite the media and political hype, the Good Friday Agreement is “dead in the water”. The people of the North have spoken. Politicians need to face facts; the Agreement hasn’t worked. The Assembly is still suspended; the Provisional IRA is still active as are the various Loyalist groups; and the British Government still makes the final decision.

The electorate have become even more polarised, with the middle ground and moderate parties of the centre being swept aside, to be replaced by sectarian loyalties. These loyalties have resulted in an unworkable political arrangement, where the largest party in the Assembly simply refuses to participate in it and is dead-set upon its destruction.

As a young republican I have to admit I was neither surprised nor upset by Wednesday’s results. They have simply vindicated the Republican position that there can be no stable form of government in Ireland without the dissolution of the State of Northern Ireland and the return of Irish sovereignty to its people, as well as their right to self-determination. How can democracy ever exist in a state designed specifically to ensure its absence? A state created using artificial boundaries and borders to guarantee an in-built majority.

Sinn Fein herald their electoral gains as some sort of victory for republicanism and evidence that the majority of ‘the people’ support the Agreement. True that Sinn Fein did gain 5.89% of the vote. But it could hardly be said that it was on a republican ticket. They seem to have overlooked the fact that, although they made gains at the expense of the SDLP (who lost 4.98% of their percentage of the vote) this is not due to a sudden radicalisation of the nationalist voter, who has suddenly moved to a more republican position on the republican spectrum. It is instead due to Sinn Fein’s movement towards a constitutional nationalist stance that has ensured these electoral gains. I wouldn’t exactly call that a victory for republicans.

Their claim about the Agreement enjoying the majority of popular support also doesn’t bear up to close scrutiny. It is true that over 70% of votes cast went to pro-Agreement parties. The most significant figure in the elections, for me however has been the combined number of people who didn’t turn out, which coupled with the number of first preference votes gained by the DUP who ran on an Anti-Agreement ticket sheds a somewhat less flattering light on the future of the Agreement. Given the fact that 37% of the electorate didn’t participate in the elections and that 25% of those who did vote chose DUP candidates as their first preference it could be said that 53% of those eligible to vote and the majority of people living here are against the Good Friday Agreement. This is of course excluding the number of votes for “dissidents” in the UUP, such as Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside both of whom ran on Anti-Agreement tickets and who achieved 34% and 18.9% respectively of votes cast in their constituencies.

The election results have been described by political commentators as a “crisis” and as spelling the end for the Agreement. Perhaps that’s what is needed. After all what has the Agreement really achieved? In practical terms very little. Much is made of the “progress” made and the “sacrifices” made to “get this far”. “Peace” and “the future” are also key words employed by advocates of the Agreement. They always manage to forget to tell us where ‘this far’ is exactly. Ask the communities of interface areas if the Agreement working. Tell Gareth O’Connor’s family and all of the families and victims of punishment beatings and killings since 1994 that the Provisional IRA is dedicated to exclusively peaceful means and that they are prepared to put their weapons beyond use. Tell the relatives of all those murdered for purely sectarian reasons that the Loyalist and Nationalist communities have been brought closer together by the Agreement.

The November elections were just another pointless exercise, meant to appease the ‘masses’. The sole purpose of these elections was to create the impression that democracy has finally come to ‘Northern Ireland’. The elections were designed to impress upon people that they had the right to exercise their democratic right to vote. As a first time voter I can’t say I was overwhelmed with enthusiasm. It is reassuring that, however dire the consequences of Wednesday’s elections are for the Agreement were, at least all the parties can come to an agreement on one issue. All agree that they should still receive around 70% of their salaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Index: Current Articles



13 May 2004

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

The 1934 Republican Congress: Broad Front or Narrow Retreat?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

 

Better an Honest Socialist than a Lying Republican
Dolours Price

 

The Angrytown News presents: SinnAid
A Community Response

Jimmy Sands

 

No Minimum Wage Here
Anthony McIntyre

 

Further Serious Abuses of Republican POWS
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

 

Free Tibet?
Liam O Ruairc

 

Thoughts on the November Elections
Chrissie McGlinchey

 

The Letters page has been updated.

 

10 May 2004

 

War Crimes
Anthony McIntyre

 

Address given by IRSP Ard Comhairle Terry Harkin to Fringe Meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party
Terry Harkin

 

A Guiding Light Falls on Ramallah
Sam Bahour

 

An Occupation That Creates Children Willing To Die
Leah Tsemel

 

Dave Hann,
co-author "No Retreat"
Connolly Books

AFA Ireland

 

 

 

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